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BAYWEST MEDICAL NEWS, Preventative Health

What to do if you run out of your Medication by Dr Jane Atkinson

Medicines are usually dispensed by the chemist in one month lots, and quite recently a number of drugs have been allowed to be dispensed in two month lots, with enough repeats to last 6 months or even in some cases, 12 months before you have to get a new prescription from your doctor.

In theory this allows you plenty of time to get to the pharmacy to buy your medicine, and plenty of time to book your appointment with the doctor pending the script running out.

Now and again, one gets caught short, and finds no tablets left in the blister pack or the bottle, and no repeats left, and no available appointments at the required short notice with your doctor to remedy the situation.

First, don’t panic! Know your medicines and what they are for. (Your doctor can provide a neat print-out of your medication summary, annotated with the reasons for the medicines in the first place – do ask.)

If missing a dose of your medication is life- threatening, for example insulin for insulin dependent diabetes, then the pharmacist knows to issue the drug even without a script, on the promise of one ASAP.

Assuming that you will get an appointment, even a phone appointment, within a couple of days, many medications can be “eked out” temporarily”.

  • Anticholesterol medication can be missed for a short while without noticeable ill effect.
  • Antihypertensives can be taken at half dose for a couple of days to tide you over, with due attention to non-drug measures for blood pressure control- exercise and no alcohol or smoking.
  • Antidepressants of some classes similarly can be eked out, but for some a sudden withdrawal has unpleasant effects. A half dose for a couple of days is better than sudden withdrawal.
  • Anti-inflammatory agents for the treatment of arthritis can be briefly substituted with over-the-counter ibuprofen and paracetamol in many cases.
  • Proton-pump inhibitors such as Nexium and Pariet will also be missed if skipped. Temporary partial treatment of your reflux symptoms can be with antacids over the counter, while paying particular attention to avoiding any dietary triggers for your symptoms.
  • Laxatives can be helped along with dietary management- old fashioned pear juice, prunes, pineapple, even liquorice.
  • If you are suddenly without your contraceptive pill, use other methods of contraception until you are reinstated. You can expect a withdrawal bleed when the pill is stopped. There is definitely no need to panic!

Many other medications for regular use can be substituted with over the counter products, which of course may not be as effective but will be better than nothing in the short term.

Do ask your doctor for a medication summary, and for advice on what you can manage without and how, for a short time, should it become necessary.

Of course we cannot control our inherited or predisposed conditions, and modern medical treatment has come a long way in lessening their effects.

However, many of our medications are for “lifestyle” diseases, which in an ideal world we would not need, because we would eat with attention to cholesterol, fat and proper nutrition, we would have had a lifetime of regular exercise, and of course manage our stress and our environment.

As mentioned above, the trained pharmacist will dispense medication on a promise in urgent cases, and many of our cases are not so urgent after all.


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